New horror project: day twenty-one writing

And… scene!

Spent a few hours today tightening up some loose ends on the first draft.

Gave the dog some more face time.

Figured out how we could keep the spray can of bear piss, have it still be relevant, then when to get rid of it.

Wrote a new stanza for the Victorian poetry book that explains some of the creature’s mythos.

Toughest thing was that early scene that we’d skipped… a flashback/fantasy sequence that demonstrates the old lady is living in the past, fixated on her father. We’d finished the beginning and end of the scene but were unsure just what events/dialogue needed to be in there to communicate the two points we thought the scene needed to communicate. It was a deliciously creepy scene that we loved, but couldn’t put a bow on.

The longer we struggled with it, we decided that if it was that hard to decide how the scene should say what it needed to say, maybe it didn’t need to say it. So as hard as it was, we CUT the scene.

45 minutes later, an epiphany, and we realized how we could simply and elegantly, with 3 simple passages of dialogue, do everything we needed to do, PLUS foreshadow some later existing points. Luckily, I’d copied it off to WORD and stored it so we pulled it up, made a few changes, and put it back. SO happy. It’s still creepy, still a favorite, and now is perfect in content as well. The whole thing only added a third of a page.

TOTAL PAGE COUNT: 93.5 — or 97.5 — or 99.8 — depending. (Good ol’ Zhura)

So here we are, with a (pleasantly readable) finished first draft in just:

95.33 hours.

Sean’s got about 88 hours.

96% percent of those hours we worked side by side, so that’s man hours, not clock hours. Clock hours we’re at about 95.33.

Full time 8 hour days would put us at about 12 days to complete this first draft from story outline through last word.

Of course, we worked an average of probably 3.5 hours a day, and not every day. So we’ve used about 6.5 actual weeks to get here.

Copies are now out to our favorite readers for some honest feedback. We hope to live with it for a week, read our hardcopies, get notes from others, and jump on the next rev in about a week.

Till then — WOO HOO!

Zhura – still troubling after all these scenes.

UPDATE:

After my FIRST Zhura posting, I told you that I’d tried creating a new doc from a TEXT file to purge the technology demons from my script.

So far less than perfect. I’ve still got niggling problems like whole portions of the script (a dozen pages or more) suddenly and inexplicably becoming BOLD, or the startling LAUNCH of my cursor back to page ONE, or the uninvited random insertion of ACTS while typing.

Speaking of page count, good ol’ Zhura made things more complicated than they needed to be again. While working in EDIT mode, the script appears to be just about 93.5 pages. In VIEW mode, it appears to be the same (a change from earlier in our experience, where I swear there was a differential between the two).

When printed to PDF, we ended up with 97.5 pages. This sucks if you’re trying to use the EDIT or VIEW modes to in any way guesstimate how long your script is.

Just as a goof, I exported the script from Zhura as a TEXT doc. Then took it into FINAL DRAFT. In FD the script is nearly 100 full pages (99.8).

So clearly, somebody’s wrong.

UPS: Totally web based. Simultaneous login allows real-time remote collaboration. Notes features. Upload projects from a variety of applications.

DOWNS: Wierd random buggy glitches  (see above and here). Uneven page count. No text search or search-and-replace.

So Zhura, while free and largely pretty cool, is nevertheless proving to make me very nervous about trusting it with my work. At the very least, I’m going to end up always taking my work into FD to do final polishes if I’m going to have any real sense of page break and page count.

New horror project: day twenty writing

Wrote for about 7 hours today.

Finished 11.5 pages of sheer craziness.

Another man dead… this time sacrificed to the beasties by someone else.

A building destroyed in a massive explosion.

Two survivors with a gun in each hand run a gauntlet of creatures.

The lead beastie confronted.

And escape for our heroes.

Plus, we save the last dog.

Fuckin’ A.

We reached the end of our story. 92 pages.

It’s not quite done… there’s one scene we purposefully skipped early on around page 30 that we need to go back and fill in. Just one page, if that.

And a few loose ends… in our fervor to muscle through the action sequences, we neglected to clarify where the dog was from moment to moment. He deserves some lovin’, so we need to sprinkle in a couple references to him.

And somewhere along the way the old lady suddenly was no longer carrying her spray bottle full of bear piss. We have to decide whether she just loses it somewhere, put it in where it’s missing, or just remove it from the story all together. I like giving a character a spray bottle full of bear piss, so I’m hoping we find a way to keep it.

But all in all, it’s DONE (with an asterisk)!

Pages: 92.33

Hours (chip):  89.5

Hours (sean): He says he’s around 85.

New horror project: day nineteen writing

Another 6.66 pages today. We’re SO close to being finished we just want to get back at it right away tonight.

But ah, duty calls. Sean had to take his Aunt to the doctor again, and my son has a baseball game tonight.

Then later it’s American Idol Finals!

And Dancing With The Stars results!

Oh lord. Did I just say that?

Luckily, today I read something from John August that made me feel a little better:

[to a reader’s question] Here’s the thing: writing sucks. It’s difficult on a good day, and intolerable on most others. That’s why I’ll gladly answer your question rather than spend these 20 minutes of staring at the scene I ought to be writing.

So I don’t feel TOO bad that I may forgo finishing till tomorrow, that I may see Adam Lambert and Gilles Marini take their respective prizes. I think. Or maybe Kris and Melissa. Or Shawn. Though I may not be able to forgive Shawn for the lame Jabbawockeez ripoff.

Starting Thursday, So You Think You Can Dance will be my excuse.

Anyway, today our characters reached the goal that they’ve been trying to get to throughout the third act. Unfortunately, things are not all hunky dory… not yet. Someone else is dead, another is missing. And someone else is about to die – he just doesn’t know it yet.

Salvation is not forthcoming. Looks like if they’re getting out of this, they’re doing it the hard way…

Alone. With a gun.

Or two or three.

Pages: 82.66

Hours (chip): 82.5

New horror project: day eighteen writing

Another day online through Zhura. Got a kinda late start… Sean’s Aunt needed a cast. Long story. Ends with a broken fibula. Another time.

Pounded through 5 pages… saved our heroes from the mountain lion, took them up the mountain trail, and trapped them as the beasties advance. Gave them a harrowing adventure crossing a gorge to get to safety… lost the gun… and ended with a joke.

Interesting note: The “adventure crossing a gorge” was one of the three trials we arranged for our heroes on their journey to safety. We’d promised ourselves no “deus ex machina” moments… that these dramatic road blocks should ring organic and true. (Yeah, I know, deus ex machina is usually reserved for unlikely convenient salvation. I’m using it to mean any unlikely convenient event, good or bad, that clearly simply exists as a plot device).

Anyways, we ended up creating this “gorge crossing” via an old rusted cable/pully/two man bucket type thing. We don’t know exactly what it does, but we borrowed the general idea from The River Wild (who has any idea what that old cable doohickey is that David Strathairn uses to flip the raft?) and it does exactly what we need it to do. So is it deus ex machina?

We think not… our heroes have just passed through an old abandoned mill. We’ve established that the area is BLM forestry land, had been logged (and probably mined) in the first half of the 1900’s, that the old woman was familiar with the mill and knew the mechanism was there. So there’s an organic precedent for the device. We don’t believe it “feels” contrived, because it seems to grow out of the elements already in place in the story… even if we don’t know exactly what the device is.

Nevertheless, we’ve lovingly come to refer to the mechanism as the “rusty plot device”. And it’ll probably always remain so.

At this point my biggest concern is that the pacing is reading as it should. We’re doing our best to keep the left-margin to short declarative sentences, one sentence per line to establish a ‘shot shot shot’ quality, and the dialogue is sparse and without subtext.

We’ve always got future revs in which to edit, of course. But I’d like this first version to be readable enough to send it to the prodco discussed earlier. I know it’s close. But I’m never satisfied.

Added 5 pages today.

Total Pages: 76

Hours (chip): 78

New horror project: day seventeen writing

Now we’re cookin’ with gas… 7 pages down today!

We’ve had the truck break down on the road, had to take off into the woods on foot, gotten lost, been chased through a wide open meadow by beasties, come across an abandoned mill, and been trapped by a mountain lion!

Serious shit.

Writing this action sequence has been really interesting… we can fly along, since our outline is pretty solid. We know the sequence of events, and the left-margin, to keep the pacing flowing, is by necessity very Hemingway-esque… no Literary flourish.

The lion advances.

She takes aim.

The cat sniffs the air, growls.

Her trigger finger tenses.

Like that. Very short and sweet.

Similarly, our dialogue through these passages goes quickly, since at this point there is no subtext — when people shout “Look out! Run!” that’s pretty much what they mean. We don’t have to struggle with finding their hidden meanings, with finding subtle ways to communicate unspoken intentions. So the pages are flying by.

Pages: 71

Hours (chip): 75

New horror project: day sixteen writing

Good day! 3 more pages!

We got our heroes into the crazy old lady’s house, learned her radio isn’t working, got her Daddy’s old 1940’s pickup running, and have escaped just as the creatures attack.

Now we’re on the road down off the mountain.

Interestingly, a point of contention has been whether or not one could even get an old 1940’s truck that’s been in storage for 60 years to start. I’m of the camp that says “weirder things have happened” — both in this script and in other stories. Seriously, the woods are full of strange semi-mythical beasties and we’re concerned over whether it’s realistic for an old truck to start up? Sean has long since become less critical of the idea. But in deference to Sean (and other similarly critical readers) we’ve long ago agreed that we’d infer the COL (Crazy Old Lady) has been keeping the truck running in hopes her Daddy might come home. We gave her a line (“I’m not allowed to drive, but Daddy lets me start his truck every morning.”) and we’ll dress out the garage with some oil cans and a gas can.

We keep thinking we’re past any real subtext, then finding ourselves in a scene where someone has a secret or a secret is revealed… takes lots longer to suss out those scenes, to keep that dialogue ringing true, and still keep the pacing up where it needs to be at this point. It’s essentially an action sequence, but every line still comes from a character whose backstory and emotional profile has been pretty well defined, so we can’t get away with any lazy writing.

Which is fine — we’d rather be writing a hard story about complex characters than spewing out something cardboard and easy.

Still, we’re looking forward to more action!

Pages: 64

Hours (chip): 71

New horror project: day fifteen writing

Two more days of story outline refinement. Didn’t make any huge changes in the outline, but just focused on some greater detail in the events, made sure we understood each character’s motivations and state-of-mind going into each scene.

In the process, discovered two HUGE plot holes (ashamed to admit) but plugged them.

Sometimes you read something over and over again and don’t see the typos… these holes have the same magical quality. Our heroes spend the whole third act in a desperate effort to get to safety and a radio. When they get to that place, they spend their time with a rube goldbergian experiment to help ward off the beasties… but never use the radio.

Similarly, they take off in the end headed for town, by way of a route we’ve earlier established has been compromised.

It wasn’t hard to fix… in our minds eyes we knew kind of why that was, but we realize that we’d never addressed it. So now we’ve addressed it. Both of ’em. Fixed. Phew!

Still, feeling kinda stoopid.

Did end up writing out the dialogue for one passage… probably the last scene in the film in which we’ll have an opportunity to reveal anything about the characters through any real subtext. Last chance for a “real conversation”, in other words, so wanted to be sure we hit any points that needed hitting, yet find an elegant way to do it that didn’t feel forced. It actually worked out quite nicely, and also reveals just a little more mythos around the creatures at the same time. We’re pretty proud of it.

Still on page 61.

Hours (chip): 68

Inktip lead – a new urgency to finish the script

So we’ve got one or two scripts up on InkTip.com… have had many prodcos read the synopses, one or two read the script. No earth shattering leads from the service so far.

BUT we do subscribe to the InkTip newsletter, in which we get leads on prodcos who are looking for specific kinds of writers or scripts. This week’s newsletter came through, and there’s a surprisingly good fit for this current project we’re working on…

We can’t give away the details of our creature, but I think it’s safe to say this: our story follows two young couples who buy a cabin in the Northern California woods, only to find the woods are teeming with strange mythological beasties.

Today’s InkTip lead is from a prodco looking for a horror film that takes place in Northern California, and features beasties of a mythological type.

So we ask ourselves — how many people are there with scripts that specifically suited to this prodco’s request? We’re hoping, “few”.

Problem is, we can’t respond to the InkTip posting without having the script completed and WGA registered (InkTip rules). So we’ve made a renewed commitment to complete the script in one week. We’ve got 61 pages done, so if we can average 4-5 pages a day, we can be at our 90 goal inside 7 days. Hopefully in time to contact said prodco.

And if we don’t get in with them, we’ll still be done – which is always a good thing.

So afterburners on…

WGA: Sundance screenwriters on writing for indies

Thanks to my good friend Jeff Palmer for this link:

WGA’s Angle On series features a video interview of several screenwriters at Sundance, discussing the constraints and advantages of writing for indie film, and some of the best advice they’ve gotten in their careers.